Heritage, Leisure and Culture

A unique offer with something for everyone

The Central South is not just a fine place to work and do business, but a great place to spend quality time, which is steeped in history.

Over the centuries, the region has played host to many dramatic events and several notable historic figures have made it their home.

King Alfred the Great chose Winchester as his capital, having defended the Kingdom of Wessex from the Vikings, and the city later became the first capital of England before it transferred to London.

Other notable figures include Queen Victoria who was never happier than when she spent time at her beloved Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Just across The Solent, Admiral Lord Nelson based his ships at Portsmouth, departing the city before the decisive Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Other famous Hampshire residents include Florence Nightingale along with Jane Austen. Staying on a literary theme, Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Bournemouth, and the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, is buried at St Peter’s Churchyard with her parents Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin.

Additionally, the creator of The Hobbit, J R R Tolkein, holidayed in Bournemouth for 30 consecutive years before moving there permanently in his retirement.

Today, the Central South’s cultural offering is still significant, and includes nationally renowned venues such as the Chichester Festival Theatre, whose first artistic director was Laurence Olivier. Meanwhile, many of the West End’s top shows can be seen at The Mayflower Theatre in Southampton.

In sporting terms, AFC Bournemouth, Portsmouth FC, and Southampton FC have all played at the top level of English football and the two Hampshire-based clubs have both won the FA Cup.

But it’s not just about football – the Central South is famed for its yacht racing, ranging from global endurance events to the ever-popular Round the Island Race which draws competitors from far and wide to the Isle of Wight, along with Cowes Week. Meanwhile, those with deep enough pockets to buy superyachts will always be spoilt for choice at the Southampton International Boat Show.

The sea plays a vital role in the Central South (see our section on Blue Environment) and tourists flock to its beaches, such as those in Bournemouth, Southsea, and West Wittering.

Meanwhile, there are no fewer than nine Blue Flag beaches in Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole, which have won 14 Seaside Awards.

As for Bognor Regis, its seafront has hosted the International Birdman contest for human-powered flight…often with mixed results! Other major events include the Isle of Wight Festival and the Winchester Hat Fair.